Thursday, May 03, 2007

Keith Norman did the right thing tonight.

The new chair of the SCDP, Keith Norman, handled a tricky situation properly tonight.

At the April meeting, he pushed back a motion to expel Richard Fields from the ExecCom to tonight, to allow each member the opportunity to review the indicting materials. Tonight, he allowed the charging member, Jennings Bernard, to make a one minute summation of the charges and establish his intent, and he allowed Richard Fields one minute to rebut, then he allowed the ExecCom members to ask questions of each.

Afterward, he revealed that he and the SCDP parliamentarian (sorry, don't know his name) had done their homework. After reviewing the SCDP bylaws AND contacting the TDP in Nashville, he noted that the time to have done something to remove Fields was at the Convention, by defeating him. Norman pointed out that the "crimes" Fields committed occurred when he was NOT a member of the ExecCom and thus, not eligible for action by the new ExecCom, and refused to allow a vote.

Chair Norman was ABSOLUTELY correct to do this. Simply put, the loyalty oath that one signs at the W/P Caucuses is tantamount to an absolution of your sins. Taken to the
Nth degree, John Freaking Ryder could come up, sign that oath, and he would be protected by it until such time as he helped a Republican, which would be about 30 seconds.

I have to tell you, I firmly believe that if there had been a vote, Fields would most assuredly have been expelled. I know too many people who are still furious about the letter he sent out last year pointing out his beliefs that many of the judicial candidates endorsed by the party were unqualified. Fields hurt one of my friends, Regina Newman, with that letter, and I'm not all that thrilled with him, either.

However, the bylaws are the bylaws, and Norman was right. One of the Members was upset with the chair for having allowed debate and then quashing the vote; however, he let everyone vent (within reason), which may have dissipated some of the bad feelings.

I know my friend and brother, Del Gill, firmly felt that the chair was pontificating and directing the show too much, but I do not believe that he overstepped his bounds. I'm betting we're going to have to agree to disagree on that one.

My favorite part of the meeting was when John Marek, the man who rebuilt the U of M college Democrats singlehandedly, called out Bernard for supporting Jake Ford, and noting that if Bernard were held to this standard, he too would have to resign. I have to hand it to Bernard for his honesty, though, he noted that he absolutely takes race into account. While I amy not agree with it, that's being a stand-up guy.

On the whole, the Chair handled a delicate situation with class, strength and dignity, and I'm happy with that.


autoegocrat said...

The more I hear about this, the less I care about what the SCDP does next. If John Ryder can, as you say, walk in and join the Party any time he likes, then what's the point?

Besides filling vacancies, what the does the SCDP really do, anyway? They don't raise money, they can't stop someone like Harold Ford Sr. from running whoever he wants, and they are apparently powerless to regulate their own membership.

I suppose I can credit Norman for "handling it well," but what was actually resolved last night? I'm trying to figure out what ultimate purpose is served by all this, and I'm drawing a blank.

Desi Franklin said...


This is a party that has ranged from in the doldrums to sinking for a long time. But think about it - in the whole state of Tennessee, the biggest number of Democrats by far live in this county. The potential is enormous. If you consider that we've gone from ten years of mainly a lot of energy spent in trying to elect either Kathryn Bowers or Gale jones Carson with the result that the ones elected whose chair candidate didn't win lost interest - until the next convention - to an infusion of new blood 2 years ago, whose aims went largely unachieved due to chaos and disruption - to now, having a strong leader who isn't afraid to do the right thing and will not let this chronic case of internal squabbling overtake his regime, you can see a continuum of improvement. I guess at my age I've developed patience and a tenacity that comes with gray hair.

Before any organization can do great things, it has to be healthy financially as well as internally (cohesive and with a unified purpose) and have the resources it needs in talent and energy to accomplish whatever its purpose is. We are poised to achieve some of these goals with Keith Norman as our leader.

Turning a large ship doesn't happen on a dime. Maybe I have more patience than others, but I take the long view. The problems of factionalism that have plagued the party for so long are like a chronic disease and such problems don't and won't diappear overnight. All I can tell you is - despite the fact that you could care less - stay tuned. Please get involved on a committee - be one of the resources we need.

As for John Ryder, that is obviously an extreme example. And , actually, LWC picked a bad example because our convention rules required that anyone elected to the executive committee could not have voted in a R primary in 2006, so it would be unlikely that overnight conversions of active Rs would result in their being elected to the committee until they had seasoned a bit as Ds.

The point is that instead of spending all of our time poking at those who don't respect the party, let's make it a party that people will respect and that runs candidates that voters will respect and elect. Whining that people don't respect you when you havn't earned it puts the cart before the horse.

So, what does the SCDP do besides filling vacancies? Raise money, recruit candidates, recruit volunteers to work the polls as Democratic pollwatchers and workers, get out the vote, organize ward and precincts in order to GOTV, publicize and communicate the party's message and efforts to the community, register and educate voters, help appoint the local primary board, support Democratic nominees with resources during their campaigns, etc.

Now's the time for people like you who are not on the executive committee to express interest in serving in one of these efforts and get involved. You have a lot of talent and if you have any interest in party politics we could use you.

polar donkey said...

The SCDP is not a large ship. There are @66 people on the excom.

I remebering hearing a conversation with party folks in Nashville. They just looked at the SCDP with befuddlement. The wildest thing was when a person said "fuck your county excom. it just a waste of time and effort." If you can organize and get voters to turnout in your ward/precinct the state party will bypass the SCDP and work directly with you.

So far Norman seems to be doing well. Maybe they will do something on ward/precincts and a headquarters. Also, working with community activists to build some legitimacy would help. Perhaps with the implosion of the Ford's and a weakening of the Herenton faction things may improve.

In this election cycle, control of the SCDP will probably mean controlling money coming in from the DNC and Presidential candidate's campaign.

Dwayne said...

I agree that Norman was right about the By Laws and handled the meeting well.

Most of us have been associated to one degree or another with a faction, whether we like to admit it or not. The problem is when we take it to the point where we can’t work with other party members or support candidates who are not in your particular group. I believe that Richard’s dislike of Fords colored his thinking to the point where he rationalized that it was ok to help the Republicans invalidate Ophelia Ford’s election. His public support of Gibbons and Luttrell, his withdrawal of support for Regina and other Democrats for judicial positions, and his anonymous distribution of negative info on Jay Bailey added fuel to this fire.

Fields should realize that many of us who have been working for the Party and have longstanding Democratic friends do not take such actions lightly. I believe that Chairman Norman does realize this and is sensitive to these feelings. That’s why he allowed the vent session before announcing his findings. Realizing what was going to likely happen, I did a little venting myself, though I was not exactly satisfied by Richard’s very lawyerly answer.

I am perfectly willing to try and work with Fields and hope that he will be a productive member. However, if he or anyone else plays games with the Party, it would be better to expunge them and deal with sore feelings than to have the Party suffer both internally and externally by their continued membership on the Executive Committee.

autoegocrat said...

Thank you for the thoughtful response, Desi, and my apologies for the nasty comment. I just get tired of reading this kind of story on the Friday after each ExCom meeting.

Desi Franklin said...


Thanks. You and me both. So, what committee do you want to sign up for? ;o)

I'm especially sick of the times when, against my better judgement, I occasionally wander over to the TM blog and read utter bullshit like I just read like calling Howard Richardson a Stepin Fetchit, and smirky racist comments about his shining my shoes. What's clear to me, though, is that gratuitous showing of one's ass like Thaddeus' blog posts about last night comes across as exactly what it is.

PD is right about how this county executive committee is viewed by the other state's counties. He is wrong about how hard it is to effect change - I'll try to restrain myself here but this smacks of what I've called PD out for before - arm chair quarterbacking. Spend some time in that room month after month and do some work for the party and then you can tell me how hard or easy it is to get entrenched destructive interests out of there. It took the dedicated efforts of a number of people to assure that Del Gill did not get elected to this committee, and he's still trying to tell the new chair at the end of every meeting about items he tried to get passed under the old committee that the chair needs to put on the agenda under old business!!! Old habits die hard.

When the members on the executive committee get to work on all that we need to do as Democrats here in Shelby County and quit pissing on fire hydrants, instead, hopefully then the party will start getting some things done for this community. This is a good time to get involved. Get in touch with Chairman Norman and sign up.

autoegocrat said...

I am honored by the invite, but I've already been Dooced once for my political activities (the blog), and I'd rather not see it happen again. As near as I can tell, my career goals specifically prohibit partisan political activity. At this point, I can choose to be either a hack writer or a commercially viable writer but not both.

autoegocrat said...

Oh, and in case you haven't noticed, it's taken me four months and I still haven't made up my mind.

Ann said...

When I read Desi's comment about Thad's blog, I had to read it. Like her, I try to stay away from the trash talk.

That being said, I HAVE to weigh in. Anyone who has had the privilege of having WORKED WITH Howard Richardson knows how idiotic Thad's representation is of Howard Richardson. Howard doesn't need me, Desi or anyone else to defend him, but I feel compelled to speak up. Howard is a Democrat in the truest sense of the word. He is a MAN of honor and integrity; the SCDP is blessed to have him on the Executive Committee.